Composer Kris Bowers could find himself landing more than one Emmy nomination come July.
From composing the music to “Bridgerton” to “Inventing Anna,” and reuniting with Ava Duvernay for “Colin in Black and White” to penning an original song for “Dear White People,” the odds are stacked in his favor as he has multiple paths to landing a nomination and even win.
Bowers returned to score “Bridgerton’s” second season. The composer says he spent a lot of time focusing on Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony’s (Jonathan Bailey) theme and how it should sound.
As the characters go from enemies to lovers, Bowers explains he knew their storyline would be “complicated, messy and devastating for somebody.” His initial version of the theme was “pretty dark. It’s kind of sad,” he admits. But it’s a swelling theme, and by the time the two characters kiss, Bowers says, “We hear that it’s positive and romantic.”
Creator Chris Van Dusen encouraged the composer to go super lush with the orchestrations for the theme. Bowers says, “It’s a short moment, but we’ve been waiting for it for so long.”
During one ball scene, Bowers delivers a string quartet version of Madonna’s classic “Material Girl.” His challenge in covering the iconic song was in maintaining its energy. “There’s a synth line that comes in at the chorus; the harpsichord is playing. I even transcribed Madonna’s exact performance so that the violinist is playing all her inflections.” Bowers explains that for this cover, he stayed away from drums and percussion and kept just to strings.
For “Dear White People,” writer-director Justin Simien wanted an original composition from Bowers, something that the characters would make fun and was cheesy. Says Bowers, “Throughout the season, you hear it so much that by the time the characters sing it in the last episode, it’s a cathartic moment.”
Bowers worked with singer Siedah Garrett for the ad-jingle-esque tune “Together All the Way.” In bringing it together, musically. Bowers was also looking at chord progressions from the ‘80s and ‘90s and studied songs from that period. Working remotely over Zoom with Garrett, Bowers says, “I sent her a couple of chord ideas, and she sent me back lyrics.”
“Colin in Black and White” saw Bowers reunited with Ava DuVernay to work on their third project together. He says, “It’s so incredible to have this relationship with her creatively and there’s so much trust on her end.”
To find the music, Bowers zoned in on the lighthearted comedic moments. “I liked the idea of having something that feels like the music that Colin listened to in that era.” Production-wise, Bowers went for instrumentation that had a lot of reference to that period. “In any of the emotional moments, I had this idea that the strings would soar. Once I told Ava that, she trusted me to do whatever I wanted.”
With Colin’s theme, in episode one, Bowers explains, “It’s his theme for how his mom sees him. It’s sweet and lighthearted. By the end, a new theme comes in, he’s claiming his own space and his identity as he talks about his hair. So we’re watching him grow.” Adds Bowers, “By the end of the season, we hear this theme that we’ve slowly been associating with him come into full by the end of the last episode.”
Bowers reunited with DuVernay again for HBO Max’s “DMZ.” He calls developing the futuristic post-apocalyptic worldly sounds “the most intense” sound-building. From silent cues to huge music moments that captured destruction, Bowers turned to Nine Inch Nails for inspiration. Says Bowers, “What if this score can sound like memory and destruction?” He took synths, distorted guitars and percussion to create themes and manipulate sounds that would make up the show’s music environment.
For “We Own This City,” Bowers worked on the main title. Bowers says, “I wanted to make a track and sequence built entirely out of police sounds.” He recruited Dante Winslow, a trumpet player from Baltimore who improvised over it. Bowers then chopped it up. “I was trying to fit into George Pelecanos and David Simon’s world of ‘The Wire,’ and how they approach main titles while doing something fresh.”